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  • Writer's pictureNíall Hedderman

Contemporary Luxury Bathroom, Edinburgh New Town

Many of the projects I work on have high aspirations but are brought back down to earth by budget constraints. Consequently, over the past five years I have developed a finely honed ability to prioritise and compromise. Occasionally though, a project comes along where the stars align and nothing is allowed to dilute the design. One such scheme was built in 2013, involving the wholesale renovation of a two story, main door flat in Edinburgh New Town. 

Renovation Of A Listed Property In Edinburgh. 

The property is Grade A listed, in a Conservation Area and also part of the Edinburgh New Town World Heritage site. But properties with provenience like that do not make easy projects and they can require extraordinary amounts of time and effort. The entire property was overhauled, with every room having either major structural, electrical, plumbing or decorative work carried out. The amount of time involved from my side was huge, it was the most intense project I have yet worked on. Over the course of 22 months I held 36 site meetings, drafted and revised 216 drawings and sent 923 emails. The property now boasts;

A redecorated entrance hallway and stairs, modern kitchen / diner, revamped drawing room, a grand master bedroom with contemporary ensuite, a rumpus room. A double room overlooking Nelson Street and a twin room with contemporary storage at the rear. Of all the rooms in the flat however, my favourite has to be the contemporary luxury bathroom. 

Creating A New Bathroom. 

This was originally a narrow bedroom overlooking the street and it took all my powers of persuasion to convince the planners at Edinburgh Council Listed Building Department to lets us change it to a bathroom. The presumption is usually against such things but, given the investment my client was prepared to make in the property, I was able to argue the design would be of an exceptionally high quality.

It turned out that getting permission was the easy part, getting the drains to work was the real challenge. Anyone familiar with Edinburgh New Town will know that all the main drainage pipes are behind the properties, which is why kitchens and bathrooms are also traditionally at the rear, as close to the drains as possible. With our bathroom on the street side, we had to run new drainage pipes inside the floor for the full length of the flat. This only worked because the property is over two stories, if the floor divided two separate properties then lifting it would never be acceptable.

 With the financial, legal and technical challenges taken care of, the conceptual design was next. This bathroom is all about light and in many ways the main feature of the room is the existing Georgian sliding sash window, so for the room to be a success all the new fixtures had to respect this.

A Free Standing Bath.

The new focus of the room is the free standing bath, placed dead centre of the large window. The tap and spout is a floor mounted model, again aligned with the central axis of the room. Of course privacy of the occupant (and blood pressure of the neighbours) is a concern and while the existing shutters were refurbished and now work well, they block out the all important daylight. The planners did not allow us to make the glass translucent so the only solution was a discrete fabric roller blind, operated by remote control. It allows in light, while providing privacy and complementing the contemporary design of the room. 

Luxury Shower.

Of course taking a bath is a time consuming luxury and a shower is a more practical, day-to-day alternative. However the only suitable place for the shower was directly between the door and that big window. If the property has one downside it is that the large central stairs has no direct daylight. The client had wanted to install glazing over the bathroom door to help solve this but the planners wouldn't allow it on the upper floor, because such things were traditionally reserved for the main entrance level. Part of the brief for the new bathroom was that the door would remain open when the room was vacant, letting daylight onto the landing. Knowing the shower would potentially block that daylight, we specified a free-standing glass shower screen, to be as transparent as possible. 

The shower itself is large, 1.8m x 0.9m (6 feet by 3 in old money) All the fixtures are discrete, well proportioned and considered, I even designed a replacement metal grill covering the drain, to increase the water flow. There is a first time for everything! 

Bespoke Wall Mounted Vanity Unit Designed By The Architect.

Opposite the shower is a wall mounted vanity unit which I designed to be well proportioned and to mirror the layout of the shower. It has three bays, two of which have soft close drawers, the centre one is open and holds towels. The two wash basins are from the same range as the bath, as are the taps and mixers. The unit was manufactured by a local joinery and pre-painted before it was mounted to the wall. Getting the pipes and drains into place while ensuring the units stays secured back to the wall was a serious design challenge on its own. To solve the problem we built a false wall the full height and width of the room but to preserve the symmetry of the space, particular when looking at the window, we built another false wall on the opposite side. This other false wall gave us the opportunity to create a recessed pocket shelf in the shower. 

High Quality Materials. 

To enhance the light, the walls are tiled in polished porcelain I Bianchi Palissandro. The false walls gave us a perfectly level and smooth surface to place the tiles and the final effect is contrasted perfectly by the dark chocolate floor tiles and coffee bean corian vanity tops. I designed the corian to have an integral splash-back that would make up the difference between the top of the vanity and the next tile course line. The bespoke mirror was also designed to work in with the tile sizes and is electrically heated to prevent condensation.

Last, but by no means least, what is a palatial bathroom without a throne. The toilet is a wall mounted unit with a discrete flush and the cistern is built into yet another false wall. 

There was a debate on whether to place the toilet against the same wall as the vanity unit but its final location was chosen as it worked with the orientation of the room, which is the fancy way of saying it faces out the window. Don't worry, the remote control for the blind is located nearby.  

This post should show two things;

First, don't ever underestimate the amount of work required on a luxury project. 

Second, even something as basic as a bathroom can be an opportunity to create a really special space. 

If these photos aren't enough, then I should tell you the property is available for short term let. It was also featured in a recent edition of Homes and Interiors Scotland. 


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